What to expect from hormone replacement therapy
Modern medicine is filled with highly sophisticated gadgets and procedures, and doctors are now able to perform complicated surgeries and save lives in a way that was not possible just a couple of decades ago. From prosthetic limbs to implants in the brain or under the skin – almost anything can be done, and replacing one hormone with another sounds like a piece of cake. However, things are not that simple, but Hormone Replacement Therapy is an efficient method for controlling and relieving the symptoms of menopause, and these symptoms are causing problems for millions of women around the globe. Menopause is a phase that every woman has to go through. Just like puberty and adolescence are “obligatory” and have their characteristics and “problems,” menopause comes with a set of side-effects that can significantly affect the quality of life and the overall well-being of a woman. The most prominent of those symptoms are hot flushes, vaginal dryness, lack of sex drive, mood swings, and so on. As we can see, some of these symptoms are not entirely physical in their nature, and emotional and psychological side of these problems is the biggest cause of trouble for women around the age of 50. The average year for entering menopause is 52, but some women notice the symptoms a few years earlier while others have a late menopause and experience the first problems at the age of 55 or even 60.

How hormones affect the woman's body

The entire “mess” with menopause starts because two hormones stop regulating the reproductive processes in a woman's body, and this causes ovaries to seize with the production of eggs cells. Eggs are typically created every four weeks, in a cycle that we all know as a menstrual cycle, but this process stops when the woman enters a certain age. Without periods, the body needs to adjust to the new situation, and this causes the symptoms that we mentioned earlier. Hormones called estrogen and progesterone are the ones responsible for the reproductive functions and activities in the woman's body, but they have other roles as well. Once these hormones are not produced in sufficient quantities, the system goes off balance, and the problems start to appear.

The importance of hormone replacement therapy

Luckily for women from all over the world, Hormone Replacement Therapy is designed to control the symptoms of menopause in an efficient and convenient manner. This treatment can be taken in the form of a cream, gel, tablets, skin patches, or as an implant, and personal preferences of the patient can determine the type of therapy. Of course, age and medical history also play a role in this process, but the point is that Hormone Replacement Therapy is still the best solution for women who have problems in their private and professional life because of menopause and its unpleasant symptoms. Additionally, HRT can significantly reduce the risk of osteoporosis and some other severe health conditions, such as cancer of the colon, and that is why it is important to start the treatment as soon as the first symptoms appear.
Hormones against side effects of aging
As aging takes its toll, every woman will face menopause. To be precise enough, the term menopause stands for the last period woman had, but it is followed by a post menopausal phase when the body reacts to the changes. The underlying cause of post menopause is decreased and finally stopped function of ovaries when the production of eggs is stopped, as well as the secretion of female hormones, estrogen, and progesterone. All these changes mark the end of reproductive function of the woman and in the years ahead she might struggle various symptoms caused by lack of hormones. These symptoms usually include some general body reactions, such as body temperature variations, hot flashes, night sweating, insomnia, depression, anxiety and thinning of bones that could cause fractures. The local vaginal symptoms can, also, occur. This includes itching, dryness of vaginal mucous and painful intercourse. Menopause usually occurs sometime in between the age of 45 and 55, but it is highly individual. It is usually predictable, according to some changes in the period preceding the last period. After twelve months of not having periods, the woman has officially entered the post menopausal phase, and it is time to consider potential need for hormone replacement therapy.

What is HRT?

After ovaries have stopped their normal function and there is no more producing of natural hormones, doctors may prescribe medications containing either estrogen itself or both, estrogen and progesterone. The hormonal replacement therapy is an attempt to compensate the deficiency of the natural hormones, to suppress and control the symptoms of post menopause and to prevent long terms effects of it. There are several different methods and various products used to replace natural hormones, but the therapy, in general, can be applied as systemic or local. Systemic hormone therapy usually comes in the form of pills, and it is an effective treatment for all symptoms, including hot flashes, bloating, mood changes, vaginal dryness, and bone thinning. The local low – dose products are applied directly into the vagina in the form of gel, cream or ring, and it can prevent and control local, vaginal symptoms, but it has no influence on other symptoms. The therapy can substitute only estrogen or estrogen and progesterone, and there are many criteria for the right choice. Roughly speaking, the progesterone should be added to all the women who still have their uterus, because estrogen can cause the malignant growth of endometrium if not balanced with progesterone. If the woman has gone through hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus), the estrogen can be enough.

You shouldn't use hormones if you don’t have to

Once prescribed routinely, hormone therapy isn't so widely used anymore nowadays. This is due to some long term side effects and health risks found to be caused by prolonged using of HRT. Administration of the combination of estrogen and progesterone seems to have less damaging effects than using of estrogen itself, but it’s not without risks either. Two major problems of hormone therapy are risks of malignant diseases and cardiovascular accidents. Women who use this therapy are at higher risk of breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and liver cancer, as well as at higher risk of heart attack, stroke and blood clotting. This is why the decision about accepting this treatment should be carefully considered with the doctor and pharmacist, after comparing possible benefits and health risks in every individual case.  
Life after hormone replacement therapy
Even to achieve a life without this treatment, the patient has to have a lot of resolves as well as faith in themselves. Like any other drug, the hormones that come through the HRT work wonders in your body. Some stronger variations of the therapy cause permanent changes in the biology of the patient. The system of a woman like that adapts to a new constant influx of the hormone, and it rejects small quantities of the naturally produced estrogen. If you fail once then, you should try at least once again. That should be a philosophy of all women that are on their way to stop the hormone therapy. Stopping may cause the reappearance of the old symptoms, and the way you handle them will determine your future. When you fail to live without the HRT, you will automatically go back to it. That isn’t something terrible, and you just have to calm down and try once again. If you fail several times you might get desperate and you might think that it is impossible to stop HRT. But don’t give up. If you can’t get the therapy without any medical assistance, then seek it. Smaller doses of various antidepressants will help you deal with the lack of hormones from the therapy. Just be sure to pick weak antidepressants.

You have to fight for normal life after the HRT

Nothing is free, especially the freedom after long consumption of a particular medication. Even if it is just a hormone, your body develops a need. This makes HRT sound like a street drug, and if we take a look at a particular aspect of the therapy, we may allow the comparison. This therapy uses a hormone which your body fails to produce. Once you start the treatment, your body will use the hormone to negate the symptoms of menopause, and your body will adapt to an everyday existence of the hormone. Once you stop the therapy, your body stops receiving the necessary ingredient, and it may reverse to its formal state. This, of course, means pain and suffering. But gradual stopping will make this path easier to thread.

Life after HRT – The fight continues

The exact moment in which you finally get over the HRT is incredible, but after that, the battle still continues. You have to keep those symptoms at bay, and in the case, they reappear, you have to be ready for them. This implies a complete change of your lifestyle. Dietary changes are the first thing you will have to do. If you smoke, then the time has come to throw the cigarettes away. Regular exercises are necessary to keep your body in shape. Mental exercises like yoga and tai chi will help you deal with the psychological symptoms that may persist throughout the rest of your life. All changes mentioned above have to continue as long as you live. This fundamental shift in the lifestyle will be hard, but you will be off the medication and free to enjoy some other pleasures you weren’t able to do while you were undergoing HRT.
The most common form of ERT
The decision that leads to ERT aka estrogen replacement therapy (a more common form of hormone replacement therapy) is hard and once you make it you come to another choice, the form of ERT. You might think that this is an easy decision but think again. Different forms of ERT have various pros as well as cons. The benefits vary from type to type, and some people prefer one over another. The choice of the ERT might not be your choice at all; it might be your doctors’ choice. Well, to be more precise, the doctor may advise you on which form of this therapy to take, and it is up to you to go with the advice or to discard it. Following the advice of your physician is advisable as they know what they are talking about.

Pills – the most common form of Estrogen replacement therapy

Pills are the choice of the majority of women that opt for ERT. If you opt for the pills, you should take Estratab, Premarin or Estrace. Your doctor will give their opinion on the pills, and their pick will fall on one of these three. Other ERT pills exist, but their dosing schedules are complicated (when it comes to these three, you take one every day, and you don’t take them just before or after a meal). Now, like any other form of ERT, pills also have their Pros and Cons. Pros of ERT pills: The oldest and the safest way to go through ERT is with pills. New and easier ways of ERT exist, but none of those have huge research background as pills. One of the beneficial effects of this form of ERT is that it lowers the risk Cons of ERT pills: The main advantage of the high number of tests performed with ERT pills is the knowledge about the side-effects they may cause. Using estrogen pills as a form of ERT may cause side-effects in the form of increased risk of the stroke and blood clots. On its own, the estrogen isn’t going to cause serious side-effects, and it’s pretty safe to take the pills on a daily basis. But once those pills come in combination with progestin they increase the risk of heart attack and breast cancer. Estrogen pills, like any other form of ERT that has its basis on estrogen, will cause several mild side-effects. Vaginal discharge, nausea, headache and swollen breasts are some of those side effects. Taking estrogen pills may have negative consequences for the liver and people that have suffered some form of liver damage should use another form of ERT. Increased cholesterol is a common side effect of estrogen pills in people that have stomach and liver problems. Going for other forms of ERT due to known side effects of the estrogen pills may be smart, but you might think that over. The lack of known side effects in those alternative forms of estrogen replacement therapy is due to a small number of tests performed with those therapies.  
Hormone replacement therapy – effects in gender reassignment from female to male
Hormone replacement therapy was a subject of many debates over the years. It bears an amount of risk, but it also provides various benefits for the patients. It is mainly prescribed to women in menopause or those who had hysterectomy. It helps them heal the uncomfortable symptoms the lack of estrogen and progesterone can cause. Hormone replacement therapy is also one of the steps in gender reassignment. It is a big decision, and it affects the body so it changes more towards the gender you identify with.

Why is hormone replacement therapy used in gender reassignment?

Hormones control a number of processes in our bodies, and they are the ones who determine gender characteristics as well. This is why it is important to take hormone replacement therapy in the process of gender reassignment. Hormone replacement therapy in females who want to become men involves taking testosterone and reducing estrogen to an amount typically found in male body. Such therapy leads to a number of changes and helps women look and feel more like men during and after the gender reassignment. In case you experience side effects of hormone replacement therapy please make sure to contact your doctor or pharmacist.

Changes in physical appearance

Testosterone causes many changes in physical appearance which will become obvious after a few months to a few years of the hormone therapy. It affects the skin and the hair to look mo re masculine. This means that the hair becomes thinner and even boldness may occur. Body hair, on the other hand, becomes thicker and starts appearing on places where it used not to be present. The skin becomes thicker and coarser, and slightly oilier, which is typical of men. The whole body will shift more to the typical “male pattern”. This means that the muscle mass will increase and distribute to upper parts of the body. The fat will distribute from hips, thighs and rear to stomach, which is typical of men.

Changes in menstruation, sexual function and desire

When you start taking testosterone, menstruation will stop in quite a short time - from 1 to 6 months. Testosterone causes sexual desire to increase, so your libido is most likely to become higher. Clitoris increases and becomes more sensitive, which also affects the sex drive. Long-term testosterone therapy may result in infertility. However, during the first several years of taking HRT, it is still possible to get pregnant. Therefore, if you have sex, make sure to use protection.

Other changes

HRT based on testosterone can affect the voice in females. More precisely, it can make it deeper. This change usually starts around the third month of the therapy, and after one year the voice is not to change any longer. Bone density is another change your body may undergo. There is a common myth that the bones will enlarge, but this is not true. The size of the skeleton remains the same after puberty; it is only the density of the bones that may change. Lastly, HRT may affect the mood as well. However, it is difficult to determine when the mood is affected by hormones, and when it changes due to other factors. Still, if you experience mood swings or depression, therapy can help.
All you need to know about hormone replacement therapy
Growing older, our bodies are constantly going through changes, and most of those changes are detrimental and dangerous. Our bones are weaker than before, our muscles less stronger than they were while we were young and active, and even our brains become slower and slower. However, some changes are specific for a particular gender, and women experience an inconvenient and unpleasant “evolutionary phase” once they reach the age of 50 or so. This “phase” is called menopause, and the average age at which women begin to notice the symptoms of this condition is 52. Of course, not all women are the same, so some of them experience menopause at an earlier age, with 45 or so, and some take more time, so their symptoms appear as late as 55.

What is menopause

Menopause is a condition that is well-known in our medical circles, but also in the general knowledge of the population. Almost everyone has heard of hot flashes and mood swings that accompany this health issue, and there is no stigma when talking about this problem (as there is with some other health conditions). Other symptoms of menopause include vaginal dryness and loss of sex drive, and all of this happens because ovaries stop producing eggs every four weeks. Once the reproductive role of ovaries is finished, women no longer have periods, and this causes a whole series of side-effects and consequences. Estrogen and progesterone are the hormones that are responsible for the regulation of all the processes that happen in the woman's reproductive system, and during menopause, these hormones change their role, or they seize to appear completely. However, they have other roles in the human body, and that is why Hormone Replacement Therapy is necessary. This treatment can replace those lacking hormones with artificial ones, and this can reduce or entirely remove some of the symptoms that come with the menopause. Estrogen is in charge of releasing the eggs from the ovaries while progesterone prepares the womb for pregnancy.

Hormone replacement therapy

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can help patients with facilitating various symptoms of menopause, predominantly hot flashes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness. This treatment has a relatively long history and the first known traces of this therapy go back to the 1940s. However, during the 1960s, Hormone Replacement Therapy became the norm, and ladies from all over the world could avoid the problems that came with age. But, during the 1990s, several research studies have found that HRT can cause unwanted and even dangerous consequences, which caused a major drop when it comes to the use of this treatment. Even today, some doctors are still confused by conflicting research, and patients are often the “victims” of this uncertainty. In recent years, more and more benefits of using HRT are discovered, and this treatment can be taken in various forms: as a cream or gel, in the form of tablets, as a skin patch, or as an implant. Factors such as age, medical history, personal preferences, or just the type of the menopause will determine the appropriate form of the therapy, and the symptoms of the menopause could be significantly less problematic.
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